Why comfy cows matter

-by Krystina Lewis, Angelina Gorrill and Ashley Kroyer, AVC vet students with Farmers Helping Farmers in Kenya

A Kenyan woman at one of the cow clinics

On January 30th, UPEI veterinary students Ashley, Angelina, and Krystina and University of Nairobi veterinary students Evans and Jacob, along with Dr. John VanLeeuwen, conducted a seminar with one of the Buuri dairy groups.

Approximately 15 farmers from the Kibirichia region came together to take part in the first of six seminars being conducted as part of the Farmers Helping Farmers train-the-trainer model. It is associated with a new 4-year project entitled “More Food, Better Food: Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers”, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada.

A Kenyan woman at one of the cow clinics

One of the topics discussed in the seminar was the importance of cow comfort. We were pleased to notice the farmers were very attentive and were asking fantastic, thoughtful questions throughout the entire session.

Some of the questions kept us on our toes as we haven’t been asked them before. One aspect of the cow comfort seminar is where we demonstrate two “knee-tests” which help determine if a cow’s stall is soft and dry.

For the first test, you drop to your knees to test softness of the stall. If your knees hurt from the fall, it represents how your cow feels as she is trying to lie down and therefore the bedding is not soft enough.

For the second test, you stay in a kneeling position for 30 seconds and when you stand up, if your knees are wet, then the cows bedding is not dry enough for her.

The farmers are very receptive to this demonstration and it promotes a great conversation about cow comfort and welfare.

Comfy cows are happy cows and happy cows produce more milk!  

Krystina Lewis demonstrating the knee test

Following the seminar, the veterinary team followed farmer Joshua to his farm. Once there, the group discussed cow comfort and the changes Joshua and his wife Mary could easily make to ensure their cows Mwendwa (meaning “loved” in the Kimeru language of the region) and Rena (meaning “grace” in Kimeru).

Joshua and Mary already had a great foundation for their zero-grazing shamba (“farm” in Kiswahili) but a few changes in neck rail placement and the stall width would help ensure the stalls and cows stay clean and dry and would help reduce the risk of udder infections. 

The vet team for January 2020

The veterinary team has been a little surprised with the weather.

By January, the rainy season is supposed to have ended and the dry season is supposed to extend until late February or early March.

However, we have encountered rain every day since arriving on January 25th!

Although, this isn’t ideal for our clinics, it hasn’t dampened our spirits. The rains have made for awesome green vistas.

Hopefully we see some more sun throughout the remainder of our time here so that we can experience Kenya to the fullest!

Enjoying the view

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